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Notes On A Film: Terminator Salvation

As mentioned previously, I’ll be talking about the films I saw in the cinema while I was not blogging. I saw roughly a film a week, even before I stopped blogging. I used to call these ‘reviews’ but I think I was flattering myself (although I’ll keep the ‘film reviews’ category for old time’s sake). These will be notes of my thoughts on the films.

I know I’m in the minority, but I rather liked what the story accomplished in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines – it brought the story to the end we knew would happen but didn’t believe they’d actually show on film. The action was a little derivative of the first two films, but it’s not as awful as everybody makes it out to be. So, a fourth film seemed nothing more than an exercise in money-making.

For me the worse part of Terminator Salvation is that the story was disrupted by weakness on the part of the director (and not for his directorial skills – I’m not jumping on that overcrowded bandwagon). In interviews, I read that Christian Bale was asked to play Marcus (the actual Terminator in this film, played by the Australian Sam Worthington – his accent tends to pop out when playing the angry shouty scenes. An aside: where has Worthington come from that he’s been cast in three huge blockbusters [Terminator Salvation, Avatar, Clash of the Titans]? His acting isn’t particularly great, so does he fit the look that casting directors need for ‘hero’? Or is it just his fee?); Bale said no, but then said he was interested in playing John Connor. The interview then said that McG readily accepted but his comment was that had to rewrite the script to take into account that big star Bale wanted to be in his film. The implication is that the Connor role was smaller in the original draft, and that they beefed it up so that Bale would have more screen time. This ruined the balance of the film: the title obviously suggests that the salvation belongs to the Terminator character of Marcus (a murderer on death row who becomes the first infiltration Terminator who still believes himself to be human); this story is weakened by making it half of the film. The film now has to contend with the unnecessary emphasis on Connor, someone who isn’t inherently interesting because he has to be this incredibly heroic figurehead. This means that the film becomes something a Terminator film should never be: boring.

My other problem with this Terminator film (apart from the question someone once asked: why don’t the robots use biological weapons?) is that, when you are in the future with all these robots, the fleshy humans look weak and useless next to all those endless robots and their big guns, so the war looks so completely one-sided as to make the resistance a joke. It takes away from the drama by making the conflict so impossible to overcome, no matter what we are led to believe.

The film is just plain strange. It’s weird seeing Helena Bonham Carter in this (what is it with talented Brit females being the cause of future disaster? Her and Emma Thompson in Legend), it’s weird seeing Bryce Dallas Howard wasted as John Connor’s wife in a practically non-existent role, it’s odd seeing Anton Yelchin (Chekov in the Star Trek film) as Kyle Reese. The only good thing about the film: the actress Moon Bloodgood has the greatest name in world.

Just please, don’t let them make another …

Rating: DA

[See here for my film rating system]

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